PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haitian police on Saturday shot and killed a prominent rebel leader who helped force former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile last year, officials said.
Police killed Remissainthe Ravix during a shootout in an industrial area in the capital of Port-au-Prince, said U.N. civilian police spokesman Dan Moskaluk. The violence was the latest in a series of clashes that have pitted police and U.N. peacekeepers against ex-soldiers and street gangs.
Early Saturday, Haitian and U.N. police were searching for suspects in Friday’s shooting of a U.N. civilian employee, who was lightly injured, when they saw about 10 armed men fleeing an area in the Delmas neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Moskaluk said.
Police cornered the men and began exchanging fire, killing Ravix, Moskaluk said. He said it was unclear whether Ravix was armed.
Ravix was one of four key leaders of the bloody three-week revolt that led to Aristide’s ouster on Feb. 29, 2004. The barrel-chested rebel, who often appeared before reporters in camouflage fatigues, was a sergeant in the Haitian army that Aristide disbanded in 1995.
Ravix’s death could stoke anger among former soldiers who refuse to lay down their weapons and control several rural towns, U.N. officials said.
“We expect that there might be retaliation by the remainder of this group,” Moskaluk said.
After Aristide went into exile in South Africa, Ravix and other ex-soldiers came into increasing conflict with authorities and were criticized by human rights groups for attacks on Aristide supporters.
In October, Ravix was among about 30 armed men who announced they would help control fighting in Port-au-Prince. Holding a sword, Ravix showed a poster with a list of alleged pro-Aristide criminals and declared: “I will arrest all of them.”
His death came as gunfire erupted elsewhere during U.N. peacekeepers’ patrols in the slum of Cite Soleil, killing a 15-year-old girl and leaving two other children wounded.
The troops returned fire after being shot at by armed men who approached them in a crowd, said a spokesman for U.N. military forces in Haiti.
The 7,400-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission has increasingly confronted ex-soldiers and pro- and anti-Aristide street gangs amid concerns violence could threaten elections in October and November. But many in the Cite Soleil slum complain of unnecessary shootings by U.N. forces.
Ravix’s death comes days before a U.N. Security Council visit to Haiti to assess conditions for the elections. More than 400 people have been killed since September in clashes between gangs, former soldiers, police and peacekeepers.